On the first Sunday of Advent, 1st December, Pope Francis traveled to the Franciscan sanctuary of Greccio where Saint Francis created the first Crib in 1223. At Greccio he presented to the Church a beautiful letter on the meeting of the Crib.

While there the Pope share this reflection with the friars and people present.

How many thoughts crowd the mind in this holy place! And yet, before the rock of these mountains, so dear to Saint Francis, what we are called to fulfill, first of all, is to rediscover simplicity. The Nativity Scene, which, in fact, Saint Francis made in this small area, in imitation of the small Grotto of Bethlehem, speaks on its own. There is no need here to multiply words, because the scene that is placed under our eyes expresses the wisdom of which we are in need to capture the essential.

In front of the Nativity Scene we discover how important it is for our life, often so frenetic, to find moments of silence and prayer. Silence, to contemplate the beauty of the Child Jesus’ face, the Son of God born in the poverty of a stable. Prayer: to express an astonished “thank you” before this immense gift of love, which has been made.

In this simple and wonderful sign of the Nativity Scene, which popular piety has received and transmitted from generation to generation, the great mystery is manifested of our faith: God loves us to such a point as to share our humanity and our life. He never leaves us alone; He accompanies us with His hidden presence, but not invisible. In every circumstance, in joy as in sorrow, He is the Emmanuel, God with us.

As the shepherds of Bethlehem, we accept the invitation to go to the grotto, to see and recognize the sign that God has given us. Then our heart will be full of joy, and we will be able to take it where there is sadness; it will be filled with hope, to share with one who has lost it.

Let us identify ourselves with Mary, who places her Son in the manger, because there was no room in a house. With Her and with Saint Joseph, her husband, we have our gaze turned to the Child Jesus.

May His smile, which blossomed in the night, dispel indifference and open hearts to the joy of one who feels loved by the Father who is in Heaven.

Pope’s Letter on the meaning of the Crib.